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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  August 26, 2012 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT

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captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> i intend to win. i intend to be part of the whole effort to crush the other team. >> kroft: for grover norquist, the other team is anyone who wants to raise taxes. >> okay, folks, we want to get going. >> kroft: the conservative activist is at the center of the deficit negotiations because he's holding pledges from virtually every republican in congress promising never to vote for anything that makes taxes go up. >> these are people in north carolina who voted for a tax increase when they said they wouldn't. >> kroft: and if they break their word, they can expect a primary challenge in the next election. you've got them by the short hairs. >> the voters do, yeah. i applaud from the sidelines. i go, "very good, yes, yes."
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>> pelley: dr. ecklund, i'm scott pelley with "60 minutes. >> oh, great. >> pelley: dr. eklund was surprised to see us. we had hidden our cameras, something we rarely do at "60 minutes," so we could uncover his plan to inject stem cells from a questionable source into this 11-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. how does it work, exactly? >> well, stem cells contain... uh... >> logan: it's fast... it's rough... and it's considered to be one of the most dangerous sports in the world. what's the thing you're best at on the field? >> i'm tough. i am not the most talented guy with the ball or playing. but i never give up. >> logan: polo's most famous player is ignacio figueras.
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the 35-year-old argentine is both the face of ralph lauren and the game's greatest ambassador. he's working hard to re-ignite america's passion for this ancient sport. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm leslie stahl. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm lara logan. >> i'm byron pitts. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes." ♪
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it pays to discover. tweet it be surprised be productive. make a sale make some lunch make it movie night. play a game or an old favorite. do it all more beautifully, with the retina display, on ipad. >> kroft: as the republican national convention begins this
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week, one of the party's most powerful players is neither a candidate, nor a speaker, nor a delegate. he is not a member of congress, nor the holder of any public office. he is a lobbyist and a conservative activist named grover norquist who, over the years, has gotten virtually every republican congressman and senator to sign an oath called "the pledge." it's a promise that they will never, under any circumstances, vote to raise taxes on anyone. and so far, norquist has held them to it. as we first reported last fall, grover norquist, through the pledge, controls 279 votes, including both the speaker of the house and the senate minority leader. mitt romney and paul ryan have signed it. and in the coming campaign, you can be sure that grover norquist won't let them forget it. a lot people think you're the most powerful man in washington. >> grover norquist: the tax issue is the most powerful issue in american politics going back
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to the tea party. people say, "oh, grover norquist has power." no, grover norquist and americans for tax reform focus on the tax issue. the tax issue is a powerful issue. >> kroft: grover norquist is trying to be modest. since creating americans for tax reform at ronald reagan's behest back in 1985, norquist has been responsible, more than anyone else, for rewriting the dogma of the republican party. >> norquist: the republicans won't raise your taxes. we haven't had a republican vote for an income tax increase since 1990. >> kroft: and this was your doing? >> norquist: i helped. yeah. >> kroft: it began with the simple idea of getting republicans all over the country to sign an oath called the "taxpayer protection pledge," promising their constituents that they would never, ever vote for anything that would make their taxes go up. >> norquist: speaker gingrich's tax pledge back in 1998... >> kroft: and once they sign the pledge, grover norquist never forgets. the mo signatures he's
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collected, the more his influence has grown. >> norquist: i think to win a republican primary... it is difficult to imagine somebody winning a primary without taking the pledge. okay, folks, we want to get going. >> kroft: all that leverage has made norquist's wednesday breakfast meetings a must-attend event for republican operatives fortunate enough get an invitation. david keene, the president of the national rifle association, was there the day we attended, along with conservative columnist john fund. >> john fund: this is the grand central station of the conservative movement. >> kroft: we were told it was the first time cameras have ever been allowed into the weekly off-the-record strategy session. >> our approach is going to be to just simply drill away every day. >> norquist: it's people from capitol hill, house and senate, think tanks, tea party groups, business groups-- everybody who wants the government to be smaller and everybody who wants the government to leave them alone. i intend to win. i intend to be part of the whole effort to crush the other team. >> kroft: grover norquist has been called both the "dark wizard of the right's anti-tax
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cult" and "the single most effective conservative activist in the country." he is a libertarian ideologue who believes that washington is controlling our lives through the taxes it raises to fund big government. and he's said that he wants to shrink it to a size where it could be drowned in a bathtub. you want to drown it in the bathtub? >> norquist: no. we want it down to the size to where it would fit in a bathtub, and then it could worry about what we were up to. >> kroft: i mean, you did say that your ultimate ambition was to chop it in half, and then shrink it again to where we were at the turn of the century. you're talking about 1900, not 2000. >> norquist: well, the... i think... >> kroft: 8% of gdp. >> norquist: yeah. we functioned in this country with government at 8% of gdp for a long time, and quite well. >> kroft: that was before social security. it was before medicare. it was before welfare assistance, unemployment assistance. is that the federal government you envision? >> norquist: each of these government programs were set up supposedly, in name, to solve a problem.
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okay, do they solve the problem? could the problem be better solved through individual initiative? i mean, i think we've found, under welfare, that we are doing more harm than good. >> kroft: do you feel the government has any obligation to the poor or the elderly or the unemployed? >> norquist: yeah. it should stop stepping on them, kicking them, and making their lives more difficult. >> kroft: norquist claims he got the idea to brand the republican party as the party that would never raise your taxes when he was just 12 years old and volunteering for the nixon campaign. he says it came to him one day while he was riding home on the school bus. >> norquist: if the parties would brand themselves the way coke and pepsi and other products do, so that you knew what you were buying, it had quality control. "i vote for the republican. he or she will not raise my taxes. i'll buy one. i'll take that one home." >> kroft: so this is about marketing? >> norquist: yes, it's a part of that. yeah, very much so. >> kroft: but norquist says the success of any product requires relentless monitoring and diligent quality control to protect the brand, whether it's coca-cola or the republican
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party. >> norquist: because let's say you take that coke bottle home, and you get home, and you're two-thirds of the way through the coke bottle. and you look down at what's left in your coke bottle it is a rat head there. you wonder whether you'd buy coke ever again. you go on tv, and you show them the rat head in the coke bottle. you call your friends and tell them about it. and coke's in trouble. republicans who vote for a tax increase are rat heads in a coke bottle. they damage the brand for everyone else. >> kroft: grover norquist is not interested in compromise. he likes things ugly and takes no prisoners. those who refuse to sign the pledge or backslide are subjected to primary fights against well-funded opponents, backed by norquist. >> norquist: these are people in north carolina who voted for a tax increase when they said they wouldn't. and down here in blue are which ones were defeated in the next election. >> kroft: well, is there any set of circumstances in which you would condone a tax increase, or release people from the pledge? >> norquist: the pledge is not
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to me, it's to the voters. so an elected official who says, "i think i want to break my pledge." he doesn't look at me and say that, he looks at his voters and says that. that's why some of them look at their voters, don't want to say that, and they go, "well, how about you? could you release me from my pledge?" no, no. i can't help you. >> kroft: but you... >> norquist: you didn't promise me anything. >> kroft: but you' the keeper of the pledge. >> norquist: we remind your voters that you took the pledge. >> kroft: you are the ones that are... >> norquist: that's true. >> kroft: ...going to retaliate if they break the pledge. >> norquist: oh, no, no, no. the voters will retaliate. we may inform the voters. but let's say the voters all want 19... >> kroft: inform the voters with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign or "educational expenditures" to point out the fact that they broke the pledge. >> norquist: if necessary. >> kroft: but you make it pretty clear. if someone breaks the pledge, you're going to do everything you can to get rid of them. >> norquist: to educate the voters that they raise taxes. and again, we "educate" people... >> kroft: to get rid of them. >> norquist: encourage them to go into another line of work, like shoplifting or bank robbing, where they have to do their own stealing.
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>> kroft: you've got them by the short hairs. >> norquist: the voters do, yeah. >> kroft: and they have to march in lockstep with grover norquist? >> norquist: with the taxpayers of their state. i applaud from the sidelines. i go, "very good. yes, yes." >> kroft: if nothing else, it is a brilliant, bare-knuckle political strategy with some of the characteristics of a protection racket. many republican congressmen fear retaliation from norquist if they even suggest that a tax increase for the wealthiest of americans should be up for discussion in the current deficit negotiations. and democrats, like senate majority leader harry reid, have been demonizing norquist on a daily basis. >> reid: they're giving speeches that we should compromise on our deficit, but never do they compromise on grover norquist. he is their leader. >> kroft: but he also has some critics among elder statesmen of the republican party, the most vocal being senator alan simpson. what do you think of grover norquist? >> alan simpson: ( snorts ) >> kroft: simpson gleefully accepts that he is one of norquist's republican rat heads
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in the coke bottle. he got there by serving as co- chairman of the national commission on fiscal responsibility, which recommended that some tax increases would be necessary to solve the nation's debt problem. simpson has no use for norquist. >> simpson: he may well be the most powerful man in america today. so if that's what he wants, he's got it. you know, he's a megalomaniac, egomaniac, whatever you want to call him. if that's his goal, he's damn near there. he ought to run for president because that will be his platform-- "no taxes, under any situation, even if your country goes to hell." >> kroft: simpson also wants to know where norquist and americans for tax reform, with its multimillion-dollar budget, gets its money. >> simpson: when you get this powerful, and he is, then it's, "where do you get your scratch, grover?" is it two people? is it ten million people? the american people demand to know where you get your money, grover, babe.
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>> kroft: but under federal law, "grover, babe," as simpson calls him, and americans for tax reform-- a nonprofit organization-- aren't required to disclose the identity of its contributors. so the finances of a group that demands transparency in government are opaque. norquist says the money comes from direct mail and other grassroots fundraising efforts. but a significant portion appears to come from wealthy individuals, foundations, and corporate interests. in the interest of transparency, would you disclose your major donors? >> norquist: i... i would not... i don't know. haven't thought of it. it doesn't really matter because what we do is what we do. i guess i would argue, thinking back on it, we've had times when people who are contributors to us were literally threatened by senators and congressmen. >> kroft: so you're protecting the corporate interests from harassment and threats? >> norquist: well, protecting me and anyone who wants to participate in american politics. you don't want people threatened
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because they want to fight against higher taxes. >> kroft: over the years, some of his group's lobbying activities have stretched into areas that are not generally associated with preventing tax hikes. he has lobbied the state department on behalf of the controversial keystone pipeline, and has dipped into areas like communications law, raising suspicions that the "leave us alone coalition" includes a lot of wealthy and powerful interests. his reputation also took a hit a few years ago because of his close association with disgraced lobbyist jack abramoff. but none of the insinuations of impropriety have ever stuck. >> norquist: it didn't work, because at the end of the day, there wasn't a there there. >> simpson: he is a houdini. he... you can throw him in the bottom of the east river in chains, and he'd come out of there. >> kroft: but alan simpson predicts that norquist could soon become irrelevant. he thinks the country's financial situation is so dire that tax increases will become inevitable, and that a lot of republicans who have signed the
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no-tax-increase pledge are already experiencing buyer's remorse. you think there are republicans who have signed it who regret it? >> simpson: i do. i know damn well they have. i've talked to them. they come up to us and say, "save us from ourselves. i got trapped by this guy." >> kroft: in fact, there are a few signs it's already beginning to happen, albeit on a small scale. 37 republican pledge signers have urged the select committee to consider all options in solving the debt crisis. and six republican congressmen, including steve latourette of ohio, have rescinded their pledges altogether. latourette, who signed his back in 1994, says his driver's license expires, the milk in his refrigerator expires; the only thing that never expires is the grover norquist pledge. >> steve latourette: my word has been good on this tax pledge for 18 years. to be bound by something based upon circumstances that existed 18 years ago, when the circumstances are different, i think that's a little naïve. >> kroft: grover norquist says he's not losing any sleep over the defections.
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he's convinced that the republicans have no intention of raising taxes, and he still has signed markers from 279 members of congress promising that they will never let it happen. >> norquist: most of the republicans i know are very pleased that we make it easy for them to credibly make that commitment. they're smiling when they're getting their picture taken with me and... and the pledge. not grumpy, smiling. >> kroft: do you believe that everybody who smiles at a press conference is actually happy? >> norquist: ( laughs ) no, but most, many. there may be one or two that are... are grumpy. and if they wish to provide their names, we'll focus on their states in upcoming elections. >> kroft: i mean, you've got them coming and you've got them going, if they're a republican. if they sign the pledge and break it, they're toast, and if they don't sign the pledge, they're probably toast. >> norquist: but if they sign it and keep it, they win the primary. they win the general. they get to govern. and i've helped make all this possible.
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>> pelley: there's no greater desperation than to be told that you, or your child, has a disease for which there is no hope. many people with incurable illness look forward to the promise of stem cells. stem cells have the potential to turn into any kind of cell and, in theory, they could repair damaged cells, though scientists tell us that we are years away from realizing that dream. there is no stem cell miracle
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today, so con men have moved in to offer the hope that science cannot. just look online and you will find hundreds of credible looking web sites offering stem cell cures in overseas clinics. two years ago, we began investigating stem cell charlatans. we worked with patients suffering from incurable diseases, and we discovered con men, posing as doctors, conducting dangerous medical experiments. you know, mr. stowe, the trouble is that you're a con man. our report started a federal investigation. and since that story, we have been digging into the rapidly growing trade in fake stem cell cures. as we reported last january, we've found something even more alarming-- illegal stem cell transplants that are dangerous and delivered to your doorstep. they are scams that often bilk the desperate out of their last dollar of savings and their last ounce of hope.
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>> i know you're tired. >> pelley: adam and brandon susser are 11-year-old twins. adam has cerebral palsy. his brain was damaged by a lack of oxygen before he and his brother were born. >> gary susser: he's confined to a wheelchair. he needs assistance with all his daily-living activities, from cleanliness to feeding to clothing. >> pelley: gary and judy susser have searched for anything that might improve on the judgement handed down by adam's doctors. >> gary susser: the sentence of being a quadriplegic, the sentence of being totally blind, the pronouncement by physicians that we should put him away. >> pelley: those were the things that his regular doctors were telling you? >> susser: correct. we were being advised literally, "put him away. he's going to destroy your life." >> pelley: so back in 2003, the sussers took a chance on the theory of stem cells. adam was three. they brought him to a doctor in mexico who injected stem cells with no idea whether they would
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work. >> judy susser: we both decided that in the severity of his condition that we'd have to try it. >> pelley: apparently, there was no harm and no miracle. >> gary susser: the progress that he made after that was minimal at best, and therefore we didn't see any good coming out of it. >> pelley: today, people like the sussers can find hundreds of sophisticated web sites offering stem cell treatments for every hopeless disease. >> gary susser: i see how people are preyed upon by hucksters and charlatans. and people who have a special child don't need any more expense, don't need any more heartache, and don't need any more false promises. they need the truth and they need hope. >> pelley: to help us learn the truth about the illicit stem cell industry, the sussers agreed to work with us in an investigation of one stem cell laboratory.
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we focused on stem tech labs of ecuador because it offers cures for cerebral palsy and a long list of 70 incurable diseases. the web site claims a "modern day medical miracle" and says "we are f.d.a. registered," apparent approval from the food and drug administration. the founder and director of stem tech labs is an alabama doctor named dan ecklund. we've been tracking dr. ecklund for months. >> gary susser: hello. is dan ecklund there, please? >> pelley: in october, we asked the sussers to contact dr. ecklund. ecklund sent them a letter which offered the blind and paralyzed adam the possibility of an improved level of consciousness, improved ability to see, to speak, to stand and walk. what can stem cells really do today? we asked a scientist who's doing some of the world's most advanced studies in stem cells, dr. joanne kurtzberg.
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>> dr. joanne kurtzberg: i believe stem cells have a lot of promise. but we are way at the infancy. because real stem cells are very difficult to control as therapy. i personally think we're ten years away from seeing real cell therapies that are working and are safe, but i do believe it will come. >> pelley: dr. kurtzberg is a physician and the chief scientific officer of a stem cell research program at duke university. she advises the federal government and is the co- director of this multi-million dollar laboratory which works with stem cells harvested from umbilical cord blood. dr. kurtzberg told us there is no evidence yet that stem cells can treat cerebral palsy. some of the diseases that we see stem cell cures offered for on the internet include multiple sclerosis... >> kurtzberg: there are no stem cell cures yet for multiple sclerosis. >> pelley: lou gehrig's disease? >> kurtzberg: i wish there were but there are not. >> pelley: you know, i wonder
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how often it happens that you have to tell a patient, "i'm sorry, there's nothing we can do." and then, they come back to you two days later and say, "well, i see all these cures on the internet." >> kurtzberg: i get many of those calls and emails and see many of those patients. but it's very dishonest to mislead people when there's nothing you can do. >> pelley: but there's a lot that can be done for adam susser, at least according to dr. ecklund, who spoke to the sussers from his lab in ecuador. >> gary susser: say hello to dr. dan, adam. >> dr. dan ecklund: hello, adam. >> gary susser: can you see him, doc? >> pelley: dr. ecklund's only examination of adam came by teleconference. ecklund didn't know we were watching. >> susser: do you think it would help him, you know, make him improve? >> ecklund: i think it's likely to help him, yes. i would say 75% chance that if... that he would have a noticeable improvement.
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>> pelley: ecklund proposed four treatments costing a total of $20,000. the sussers asked ecklund to treat adam near their florida home. >> ecklund: again, my concern would be the legalities of it. >> pelley: he's right to be concerned. it would be a felony to use stem cells in an unapproved therapy or to sell them for export to the u.s. that's why we were surprised to see this on many web sites-- a shopping cart. we clicked on ecklund's stem tech labs cart and, with no medical or scientific credentials, we bought 20 million umbilical cord stem cells for $5,000, shipped to america. we had the cells sent by the highest medical standard. duke university suggested we use something called a dry shipper, cooled with liquid nitrogen. we sent the dry shipper to stem tech. stem tech sent the frozen cells to us, and we forwarded them to joanne kurtzberg.
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a computer chip inside our package verified that the cells were properly frozen all the way. dr. kurtzberg analyzed the cells. for comparison, look under the microscope-- healthy umbilical cord stem cells look like this. the cells we got from stem tech had disintegrated. >> kurtzberg: so these are the cells you purchased, and they are dying or dead. >> pelley: we see all of these dead and disintegrating cells and, essentially, cellular debris. are there dangers of injecting that into someone? >> kurtzberg: there are huge dangers if you injected that into someone's blood or spinal fluid, because all these little fragments and debris would get trapped somewhere in the blood stream and could cause a stroke, or in the brain could cause an inflammatory reaction. >> pelley: this could actually do harm? >> kurtzberg: yes. this could do a great deal of harm. >> pelley: remember, the sussers asked dr. ecklund to treat adam in the u.s.
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and last winter, he got out of a van to meet gary susser at a florida hotel where ecklund planned to do the transplant. we dug into dr. ecklund's background, and we found things that he hadn't told the sussers. this is the document in which the state of alabama revoked his medical license in 2005. the state medical commission said dr. ecklund admitted that he prescribed controlled substances to a patient with whom he was having sex; prescribed controlled substances to a patient who he knew was a drug addict; and had sexual experiences with young female children. we also tracked down his laboratory in ecuador-- not exactly the state of the art facility claimed in his web site. the hotel room gary susser and dan ecklund headed for was set up with a number of cameras that were tucked out of sight. susser excused himself.
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ecklund was expecting to meet judy and adam, the blind and paralyzed 11-year-old in whom he intended to transplant stem cells-- cells from his lab that sold us the dangerous biomedical junk. instead, we came in. dr. ecklund, i'm scott pelley, with "60 minutes." >> ecklund: oh, great. >> pelley: how are you today? >> ecklund: i am, uh, surprised. >> pelley: we've been working with the sussers on a story, and i want you to know that we're being recorded. and i wanted to ask you about the treatment that you propose for adam. what would that be? >> ecklund: the treatment that he asked about was for stem cells, human stem cells. >> pelley: and you think they're applicable for cerebral palsy? >> ecklund: yes. i have seen them be effective in cases of cerebral palsy. >> pelley: how does that work, exactly?
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>> ecklund: well, stem cells contain... excuse me, here. no one knows exactly, okay? but stem... stem cells do contain and give off chemicals which cause other cells to repair themselves. >> pelley: in the letter that you sent the sussers, you described possible effects for adam, which could include improved ability to see, improved ability to speak, improved ability to move arms and legs. you believe those things are possible? >> ecklund: i do. >> pelley: what is your training in stem cells? >> ecklund: my training in stem cells was i studied for about six years going over the literature. and then, i started producing stem... stem cells in my lab. >> pelley: you're self-educated, self-taught? >> ecklund: uh-huh.
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>> pelley: have you published any research? >> ecklund: no. >> pelley: frankly, dr. ecklund, you have nothing to base your results on. there's no clinical trial, there's no... there's no blind study. there are no medical papers published. >> ecklund: that doesn't make any difference. >> pelley: you know, you say you... it doesn't make any difference that you haven't done these studies. i would imagine... >> ecklund: the studies have been done in other countries. >> pelley: i would imagine it would make a big difference to the sussers. >> ecklund: the studies have been done in other countries. these are not published in the united states, because they cannot be published in the united states. >> pelley: where is this seen in the medical literature, anywhere in the world? if you did the things that you describe in this paper, you would win the nobel prize. >> ecklund: no, if i did the things that are described in that paper, it would not be published, it would be suppressed. and you wouldn't see... you wouldn't hear about it. >> pelley: ecklund told us breakthroughs with stem cells aren't published in scientific journals because of a conspiracy of drug companies and governments that he had trouble defining.
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that's when we told him we bought cells from his lab. when your cells are delivered, they're functioning, living stem cells? >> ecklund: yes. >> pelley: we purchased some stem cells from stem tech labs six months or so ago, and had them delivered to duke university, which did tests on the stem cells. and they determined that the stem cells were dead. >> ecklund: well, they must not have handled them appropriately, then. >> pelley: you're thinking that you handled them appropriately, but the stem cell laboratories at duke university did not? >> ecklund: that would be my assumption, yeah. >> kurtzberg: i don't think that there's any chance they were damaged in shipment. >> pelley: we asked dr. kurtzberg to listen to ecklund's theories. >> ecklund: yes. i have seen them be effective in cases of cerebral palsy. >> kurtzberg: this is pretty scary, actually, that he would
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be saying these things, that he would be leading them on this way because what he's talking about is very dangerous. >> pelley: is this a con, dr. ecklund? >> ecklund: no, it's not a con. i have taken the stem cells myself. would i take the stem cells if i thought that they were a con? no. >> pelley: putting them in an 11-year-old boy is entirely a different matter. >> ecklund: that's why i took care to explain the remotest possible difficulties, which have never been reported. >> pelley: without any medical studies that have been published in major journals that have suggested that stem cells have any efficacy in cerebral palsy. >> ecklund: you keep going back to this point, that they're not published in... in major... in major medical journals. i'm telling you... >> pelley: it is the standard of the world. i do keep going to that point.
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>> ecklund: i'm telling you that they are not going to be published in this country, because when someone does try to do it, then they have "60 minutes" come and visit them. and i think that's enough for me. thank you. >> pelley: we don't know where dan ecklund went, but we do know the whereabouts of the two con men who were the subjects of our first stem cell story two years ago. in that investigation, we worked with patients steven watters and michael martin, who suffered with a.l.s., also known as lou gehrig's disease. they were promised miracles from lawrence stowe and frank morales, who offered a $125,000 stem cell therapy. >> steven watters: will it keep me out of a wheelchair? >> lawrence stowe: oh, yeah, absolutely. >> pelley: our story launched a federal investigation. and last january, morales and stowe were indicted. the indictment alleges they made $1.5 million with stem cell fraud.
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if convicted, they could face 20 years in prison. the patients who helped us, steven watters and michael martin, lost their lives to a.l.s. last year. [ male announcer ] the lenscrafters semi-annual sale. ♪ we see 50% off lenses. ♪ you see a sale you can't miss. lenscrafters. hurry in. sale ends september 9th. who dreamed she could fly. there were the doubters... the non-believers, the "no-way you can do it'ers." ♪ but like others that braved the sky before her, it took a mighty machine, brilliant ingenuity... ♪
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>> logan: polo is called "the sport of kings," and for centuries, it's drawn royalty to its ranks. in the minds of many, the game has always belonged to the rich, the famous, and the privileged few. but there's more to the sport than the glamorous world that surrounds it. as we first reported in april, it began as a war game more than
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2,000 years ago, and is one of the oldest team sports in history. most of us in america today know very little about it, but there was a time in this country-- in the 1920s and '30s-- when polo could draw a crowd of 30,000 spectators, and the u.s. was considered the best in the world. today, there are polo clubs all over the country, and many of the top international players come to the u.s. in the summer to compete in some of the sport's most prestigious tournaments. tonight, you'll meet one of the game's stars, who has made it his mission to try to re-ignite america's passion for the game. ( cheers and applause ) it's fast... it's rough... and it's considered to be one of the most dangerous sports in the world. is it a fight on the field? are you going to war? >> ignacio figueras: it's war, yes. you're not trying to hurt anybody. but yes, you're trying to... to score more goals and to go faster and hit someone harder, and do whatever it takes to...
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to win that game. >> logan: 35-year-old argentine ignacio figueras, known simply as "nacho," is the most famous professional polo player today. you may recognize him as the face of ralph lauren, that sultry look an international symbol for the polo brand. he's also the unrivaled ambassador for the sport. 18,000 people showed up at this charity match he hosted on governor's island in new york city, where some of the v.i.p. tables went for $50,000. nacho is at ease among the glitz and glamour of the polo scene, the star attraction in that "great gatsby" world of extravagant hats, seersucker suits, and elegant spectators sipping champagne. but where we saw his real passion was on the field.
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>> polo, it goes beyond where you are or beyond what people are wearing, beyond the hats, beyond the high heels, beyond all of those things. people think of polo and they think of those things first. all these things are happening around it, but what about what's happening inside? >> logan: inside, it takes blood, sweat and hard work to play polo at nacho's level. these pictures were filmed at a thousand frames per second on a high-speed camera that we used to capture nacho in action, and the power and intensity of the game. many people describe polo as hockey on horseback. nacho told us it's more like playing golf in an earthquake. >> figueras: i've broken my nose twice. i have stitches here from like here to there. i broken my... my wrist. i broken my ankle. i've been unconscious twice from falling. it's a rough sport. >> logan: you took a ball in the eye?
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>> figueras: yeah, right here. >> logan: that explains the helmets and kneepads the players have to wear. nacho didn't bother with any of that when he was a boy growing up on a farm in argentina, obsessed with polo. >> figueras: i always say, "if you're born in hawaii, you'll surf. if you're born in austria, you'll ski. if you're born in argentina, then most likely, you'll play polo." >> logan: what's the thing you're best at on the field? >> figueras: i am tough. i am not the most talented guy with the ball or playing. i run, i kick, i hit people hard. i never give up. >> logan: to understand how the game is played, we asked nacho for a lesson. >> figueras: it's four against four. you play different periods called chukkers. they're seven minutes long. you have to score with a ball that is this big. >> logan: the object is to hit the ball through the opposing team's goal, and it all takes place on the largest field in sports, big enough to fit nine football fields. the rules are you have to use
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your right hand to play and control the horse with your left. the horses go as fast as 35 miles an hour, and usually last about three and a half minutes before they have to be swapped out. nacho has one of the best strings of polo ponies in the game. what are his strengths on the field? >> figueras: stopping and turning-- amazing. these horses can stop on a dime. you can compare it with racecar driving. >> logan: so this is a ferrari right here? >> figueras: this is a ferrari right here that then also has to be tuned and feel great for the game. >> logan: he told us nothing is more important than the horse, and he picks his carefully. >> figueras: this one is cortina. i bought her two years ago from a very famous american polo player called owen rinehart. >> logan: owen rinehart runs a world-class breeding and training operation on his 300- acre ranch in aiken, south
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carolina. in a game dominated by argentines, this american was once one of the best in the world. what makes a good polo pony? >> owen rinehart: speed, agility, mental soundness, competitiveness-- the really good ones are really competitive. >> logan: just like humans. you can't overstate the importance of a polo pony? >> rinehart: unbelievable how important they are. >> logan: training starts from birth, and for these newborns, getting used to being around humans is the first lesson. >> rinehart: that one's mother is a great horse, but she's mean. >> logan: they are all descendants of great polo ponies, bred from champion stock. >> rinehart: we want these to hopefully one day be in either the u.s. open, the british open, or the argentine open. those are the three biggest tournaments in the world.
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>> logan: these horses won't be ready for professional polo until they're six or seven, pretty old compared to a racehorse, which peaks at three or four. so he could turn out to be a champion polo horse. >> rinehart: i believe he will be. >> logan: which would mean he'd be worth what? >> rinehart: up... i think that sort of the top end now is $200,000. >> logan: polo ponies don't spend long in the ring, but owen told us this is a critical part of their training, because it's here that he determines how sensitive their mouth is to the reins. >> rinehart: it's all about pressure, and this is very light pressure and you want a horse to have a light mouth. >> logan: on the field, they get used to full contact and learn how to compete at top speed. the best polo ponies, like the ones bred here, can play for ten years or longer. that's amazing to see her weave like that from side to side.
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owen showed us what a champion horse can do. >> rinehart: when she feels this... >> logan: yeah. >> rinehart: ...she goes that way. when she feels the reins on the other side, she goes the other way. it's all her, and it's literally that or that. >> logan: professional players like nacho travel with their best horses. he brought 13 of the 300 he told us he owns here to the bridgehampton polo club on long island, where he was playing in a six-week tournament. >> hi, daddy. >> logan: his wife and children travel with him as much as they can. professional polo keeps nacho on the road seven months a year, competing in a series of international tournaments from singapore to spain. polo at his level costs millions of dollars and is paid for by the ultra-rich, like peter brant, who owns two polo clubs and his own team. nacho spent years playing for him. so this is your polo field? >> peter brant: yes. i have one polo field here, and
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we have two across the road for the greenwich polo club. >> logan: we met him on his estate in connecticut. he's what's known in polo as a patron. >> brant: if the team runs into deficit, he covers it, and if it runs a profit, he keeps it. ( laughter ) that's what a patron is. >> logan: have you covered more deficits or kept some profits over the years? >> brant: well, let's put it this way-- as an investment advisor, i wouldn't advise you to start playing polo to earn a living-- i mean, as a producer of a team. >> logan: but in exchange for covering all the bills, the patron gets to compete in the biggest tournaments alongside the pros. and few of them play as well as peter brant, once the highest rated amateur in the u.s. there's another side to the sport that nacho wanted us to see. he introduced us to a 19-year- old player from philadelphia who
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he'd mentored. >> kareem rosser: oh, nacho is amazing guy, you know, very caring. >> logan: have you played a game with him? >> rosser: yes, i have. i was fortunate enough to play couple times with nacho-- once against him, once with him. i'd much rather play with him than against him, so... ( laughter ) >> logan: kareem rosser was named the best high school polo player in the nation last year. over 40 high school teams across north america compete for a national title. and nacho sees kareem's success as proof that polo can take root in the most unexpected places. there aren't many kids that grow up in america wanting to play polo. did you ever imagine that that would be your life? >> rosser: i had no idea, but i'm glad that it is polo. i'm glad that polo has taken me far. i just love everything that it has brought to me, you know, all the opportunities, just the way it changed my life for the good. >> logan: kareem grew up in a rough part of west philadelphia.
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>> rosser: this is where a lot of bad stuff happened on this street-- drugs, violence, shootings, killings. being around all that negative influence, it's easy to get pulled in. >> logan: just a five-minute drive from here was his refuge, this barn at the chamounix equestrian center, where philadelphia's mounted police once stabled their horses. 17 years ago, a woman named lezlie hiner started a program called "work to ride." she came to see the sport of kings as her way to help give poor kids a chance. in exchange for mucking stalls and keeping up good grades, lezlie taught the kids how to play polo with donated horses and secondhand gear. for years, they didn't win a single match, and they were not always welcomed in the wealthy white world of polo. and now, you're high school champions for the country?
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>> rosser: yeah, we are. it took us a while to accomplish that goal, but now we can definitely walk around and say that we are national champions. >> logan: kareem told us he hopes that, one day, he'll play professionally like nacho. in the match on governor's island, we watched him lead his team to victory... hustling for the ball ... stealing possession... and charging down the field to score. nacho playing the game the same way it's been played through the centuries, hoping to excite new interest in this ancient sport. >> nacho, nacho! >> go to to go behind the scenes on the polo chute to watch our cameramen at work. those little things still get you.
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>> pelley: i'm scott pelley. we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." [ female announcer ] now there's a way
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